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Should you stay or should you go?

John Kirby stay

You have an exciting job offer but, when you announce you’re leaving, your current boss makes a counteroffer. What do you do?

“Don’t stay just for the money, but don’t leave just for the money,” write Kelly Kay and Michael Cullen for Harvard Business Review. But does accepting a counteroffer harm your career in the long term? And are there times when staying no is the better option? Here, business leaders and HR specialists give their opinions.


About 80% of senior execs and top HR specialists say accepting a counteroffer harms your career prospects. Why? Because you’ll be forever tarnished by your perceived disloyalty; you’ll lose people’s trust. Even if you’re justified in using a job offer as a way to prise more money from your boss, it’s rarely a good idea. Not only might your attempt backfire, but some firms also won’t make a counteroffer because they don’t want to be seen to give into blackmail – but your reputation will suffer too.

“In my experience counteroffers don’t work 95% of the time,” says Jenny McCauley, senior VP at Southwestern Energy. A cybersecurity exec agrees: “People who accept are going to be gone, whether it’s in a year or two years.”

But is there ever a time when you should stay? That depends on the counteroffer and whether, in truth, you are going to leave anyway in the short to medium term.


If, when you tell your boss you’re leaving, she responds with a new role with new responsibilities, you should listen, because in a small number of cases, staying definitely makes sense. The same leaders who say staying rarely works admit that in 5% to 25% of scenarios, remaining in post is the better option.

What is your initial impression of the counteroffer? If it’s genuine, you’ll know because “that kind of reaction is hard to fake”, says one CHRO. “They can’t come up with an integrity-filled counter in a day or two if they’re just trying to buy you back.”

If you think the counter offer is one the firm would have offered anyway, that’s a good reason to give it your full attention. Take a step back, discuss the situation with a trusted mentor and make sure you’re clear in your reasoning.


Turning down a firm after having been through the entire recruitment process and receiving a job offer from them is bad form. So don’t let it come to that. If you enjoy a healthy relationship with your boss, you should be able to approach her before you decide to apply for opportunities outside the firm. A manager with your best interests at heart should be happy to discuss your future career options with you; if they’re not, you know what you need to do.